Chapter 4, V 17 – “One should understand action, understand wrong action, and understand inaction too; the way of action is obscure.” (Barbara Stoler Miller, The Bhagavad-Gita: Krishna’s Counsel in Time of War, 4.17)
I will begin today’s commentary by thanking those of you who are sharing their thoughts and adding comments. I wish to encourage all of you to occasionally share your personal understanding and experience related to the verse quoted. Finally you are welcome to post your own verse selection and commentary. This is of course my first reading with commentaries posted to our study group. Please check the pinned post for guidance on quoting The Bhagavad Gita and adding commentary.
Today’s verse applies to us in many ways. Interpreting the subtle difference between action, inaction and wrong action is exactly as Lord Krishna says “obscure.” In the context of the battle of Kurkshetra, Lord Krishna is trying to convince his best friend and pupil, Arjuna, that he should take up arms and proceed to perform his sacred duty of protecting friend, family and kingdom. To awaken from his stupor and strife. That his choice of inaction will be detrimental. We know Arjuna’s reason for inaction. He does not wish to do battle with family, friends and teachers for kingdoms on earth or heaven. To avoid wrong action he chooses inaction. But that is not his sacred duty, “dharma”. It is to protect his rightful rights of kingdom, and in so doing protect his family and friends, and, his religion. However, the way of action is fraught with perils, challenges, struggles, sacrifice. It appears obscure. Only that Lord Krishna who has devoted himself to his service will be there all the way, even as his family and friends fall like flies on the battlefield. Lord Krishna will show him the way back to him. The way of action is the right choice.
I am often challenged to look away from stressful situations. The path of action is too challenging to consider. Mostly because I am afraid that I will make a wrong choice and take a wrong and difficult turn. How do I learn to listen to Lord Krishna? If I am attached to the fruits of my actions, I am probably making the wrong choice. No wonder Lord Krishna will soon ask Arjuna to detach himself from the fruits of action. If I remember the Sanskrit slokha, “Lokha samasta sukhenu bhabantu,” I can hope that everything I do will promote peace and harmony in my life and contribute to the peace and harmony of all.